* Climate lobbyists for every member of Congress: 5
* Venture capital and private equity firms lobbying on climate issues: 12+
* Lobbyists working for venture and investment firms on climate issues: 60
* Interests that joined the climate debate for the first time in the third quarter of 2009: 140
* Businesses and interest groups lobbying on climate issues in 2003: 150
* Lobbyists representing environmental groups: 160
* Lobbyists representing alternative energy firms and interest groups: 170
* Lobbyists representing “major sectors,” including manufacturers, power, oil and gas companies, transportation and agriculture: 2,000
* Amount spent on climate issues in the third quarter, if 10 percent of groups’ lobbying budgets went to climate-related activity (exact spending by issue is not disclosed): $30.5 million, up about 13 percent from the previous quarter.
The new managers amendment to the merged Senate bill incorporates Sen. Bob Casey’s (D-PA) language strengthening the segregation of private and public funds and increasing federal support for adoptions, with a new provision that would allow states “to prohibit abortion coverage in qualified health plans offered through an Exchange in such State if such State enacts a law to provide for such prohibition”
Yesterday I was invited to a blogger conference call with White House Health Reform Director Nancy-Ann DeParle and Senior Advisor David Axelrod. It was both an honor and an obligation. Given access, I feel like I must ask real questions that reflect real people's understanding of health care reform.
But I didn't ask about specific policy. I hear the administration's arguments that getting any reform is a matter of negotiation and compromise, but I truly feel like people were left out of the political calculus during Senate negotiations. I'm not saying the White House doesn't care about regular people. I believe they really do. What I mean is that, since the election, politics from the Obama camp has been Washington centric to the point of neglecting the origin's of the President's mandate.
If we think back the campaign, what had people in Washington truly freaked out was how Obama was able to both address and wield the power of the people in setting the agenda. But soon after Inauguration Day, the political focus moved to DC and Capitol Hill.
But it wasn't Obama's ability to move Congress that had helped him turn Washington upside down.
I get it, that to create democratic change you have to engage democratic institutions, but by not taking the argument to the states, to the people, we've gotten a bill that reflects the mandates of Washington rather than Obama's inspirational vision. And frankly, I'm angry about that. The people in charge of realizing the President's agenda did not use all the tools in their arsenal to get the best bill possible.
And so on the call I was compelled to make a point while asking my question. Why is it that fighting for this legislation is more about taking potshots at liberals rather than going after the obstructionists? Liberals were able to accept the House version, not because they thought it an awesome piece of legislation, but because they trusted that the President had worked to get the best bill possible. They trusted him because there was a lot of communication with the public (even if it was centered around the mechanics of Washington) - directly with the Joint Sessions address, and indirectly through media stories on the negotiations themselves.
Anyway, I made the point that liberals were on the President's side. That they wanted to see the President's transformative agenda enacted too. Then I asked what we could expect to see between now and Christmas in terms of fighting for the President's vision.
Ms. DeParle's answer was a defense of the hard work they were doing, but that didn't answer my question, so I asked it again. David Axelrod responded this time, saying that he wasn't going to tolerate falsehoods about the legislation. So my question was never really answered. But I think that is ok.
Joan McCarter and I emailed after the call and she thinks I got under Ax's skin more than anyone else. Probably because have an unknown blog and who the fuck am I to come out of the peanut gallery and act as if I know a thing about political processes.
But I really did get what I wanted out of that call. I cornered them on admitting that the bill needed to look more like the House bill, and so now they have to work to improve it or, at the least, explain why it is the best bill possible. I don't think Ax saw it, but what I was also giving them was a way out. It's one thing to say this is the most pragmatic bill, it's quite another to assert that it is the best bill they could have imagined, that it does justice to the President's vision.
I think some straight talk would calm the left quite a bit. I was careful to say we weren't seeing the fight, and so the problem of liberal rebellion is about communicating with the public. That is what is really missing in all this - engaging citizens. I mean, why not admit that this legislation is a first step and that there is still work to do? People will get that.
I feel like I hit Mr. Axelrod below the belt, though, and that makes me feel like a dirty fighter. I don't imagine that he doesn't believe in the President or his vision. I don't believe he doesn't want to see it realized. Still, my argument put it on people in Mr. Axelrod's position, those doing the negotiating, not President, as if they were letting him and the people down by not fighting hard enough. I didn't accuse President Obama of selling out, which is what I think they were prepared to defend.
I feel bad, though, because they took it as if I said they weren't working hard enough. I didn't. Working and fighting are two different things. I'm sure the policy people, Ms. DeParle especially, are busting their butts for it. But it's not just about policy, it's about politics, and the deadline isn't until Christmas. So the political battle goes on, and to make this legislation more like what it should be, the political players need to step it up a notch.
Honestly, I was the very picture of everything I hate about liberals. I was preachy, self-righteous...I talked about strategy rather than policy. Bleh. I wish I had better tactics.
But on reflection I think I was true to what I believe in and what I am fighting for. I believe that the real challenge of our generation is finding a way to involve real people in political processes. The key is incorporating democratic participation into people's busy lives. I think that is achieved, first, by constantly engaging the public - talking, listening, and communicating what is learned to decision-makers.
That has been absent since the close of House negotiations. And I think that is why the Senate version is so disconnected from the desires of real people and the President's inspirational vision.
I was lamenting the lack of imagination in the debate on health care reform (aka this rant) with a friend and he said something profound:
Then they'd have to change the whole premise of reform, away from the uninsured (oh, to help the poor...) and toward the notions of portability and choice they used to give lip service to. Old problems get old solutions.
Not that there is anything wrong with helping the poor, but it seems like in all this talk of reform, people stuck in the middle are getting left behind by policy-makers again.
Yesterday the President spoke about the third phase of the recovery package. He noted that Congress had helped people (the poor) by increasing unemployment benefits and aid to make COBRA plans more affordable.
He also mentioned the success of Cash for Clunkers and home-buying incentives, programs targeting people with disposable income.
And progressives including myself are rightly excited about programs for clean energy retrofitting homes - a program yet again targeted to people who have disposable income.
But what about the vast majority of Americans who have jobs and are just making it? People who are unable to put anything aside for new cars and solar panels because their home values have plummeted and their retirement savings have disappeared? Where is the recovery they have been hoping and paying for?
Neither health care reform nor the recovery program is giving folks stuck in the middle the change they voted for.
In return for concessions on their proposal for a new government-run health insurance plan, liberal Democratic senators pushed Monday for expansion of Medicare and Medicaid and more stringent federal regulation of the insurance industry.
Several liberals said they had reluctantly concluded they could not get the 60 votes needed to win Senate approval of a bill including a public option. Accordingly, the liberals are pushing for expansion of Medicare and Medicaid.
Months and months of debate, and all that has come out of it is "doing the same thing but bigger." Imagination FAIL.
The challenges of change are always hard. It is important that we begin to unpack those challenges that confront this nation and realize that we each have a role that requires us to change and become more responsible for shaping our own future. -Hillary Clinton